Pandemic restrictions have expectant parents turning to private ultrasound clinics

More parents-to-be are turning to private ultrasound clinics since pandemic began. The owner of one clinic in Cambridge suspects the uptick is because public clinics — where mothers are expected to go for routine diagnostic check ups — aren’t allowing patients to bring spouses into the scan room. 

Public clinics don't allow family to come with patients to appointments

Shelby Campbell and her husband, Robert, are among those turning to private ultrasound clinics so they can hear their baby's heartbeat together. (Submitted by Shelby Campbell)

Shelby Campbell is a little more than 15 weeks along in her first pregnancy.

The Cambridge woman had her first diagnostic appointment on Sept. 23, and said it was "heartbreaking" that her husband Robert wasn't able to accompany her because of pandemic restrictions.

Instead, he joined virtually from a video call at work.

"It just wasn't the same," said Campbell. "He wants to be there to hold my hand. When you're with someone face to face, you're able to share emotion and connect with each other." 

So Campbell and her husband have chosen to pay $250 to have a pair of ultrasounds done at UC Baby in Cambridge when she's further along, so that Robert can be there to hear the heartbeat, in person.

"That was really important for us, especially since it's our first baby." 

Business nearly doubles

UC Baby is a chain of non-diagnostic ultrasound clinics, where expecting parents can pay to have 2D, 3D or 4D reassurance scans or have the baby's sex revealed to them.

Since being allowed to open in late May, owner Najma Mahmood says business has nearly doubled. She's gone from booking 75 appointments per month, to nearly 150.

"We are very busy," said Mahmood, who runs the Cambridge clinic on her own.

"We notice people want to bring their spouses and they're preferring our location, just to see their baby. But for the diagnostic purpose, for the measurements, they still have to go to the diagnostic clinic."

Mahmood said she does a thorough cleaning of the scan room, seen here, between appointments. (Submitted by Najma Mahmood)

Mahmood said she's able to keep on top of appointments because they aren't taking as long.

"These days, due to COVID, I noticed people don't like longer scan times," she said. "The gender [scan] usually takes sometimes five minutes, sometimes 10 minutes depending on position of the baby, so they're in and out in 20 minutes." 

3D and 4D scans are typically 30 minutes, but Mahood said people are preferring to take just 15 minutes.

"There's a reason I'm able to manage more clients." 

UC Baby does allow people to bring partners or members of the same household to their scan, said Mahmood, but COVID-19 safety rules still apply. Mahmood said she does thorough cleaning between appointments, masks and hand sanitization are required, and people are asked about travel history and whether they have symptoms. 

Mahmood said her clients are very diligent about the safety protocols. 

"Because they're pregnant, they're so careful about themselves, about the baby."

Diagnostic clinics also busy

At least one diagnostic clinic in the region is also busier since the pandemic began, but for different reasons. Sandra Fisher, regional manager of Care Imaging, the company that operates Karma Ultrasound in Kitchener, said they would typically have 10 scan rooms running at time. 

Now, short-staffed by the pandemic, Karma Ultrasound is only operating six or seven rooms. 

"We do have wait lists all the time, and we work very hard to get these people in and to see them," she explained. Karma Ultrasound doesn't typically see people on weekends but Fisher said she's been working Saturdays now for several months. 

"If you were ten weeks pregnant and you needed to book a first trimester screening scan, which needs to be done around 12 weeks, we would put you on a wait list and we would find you an appointment to get you in around 12 weeks. We would create a spot." 

Karma Ultrasound is not allowing patients to bring partners to their appointments because of the pandemic. Fisher says she has heard second-hand that many of her patients are also going to private clinics, like UC Baby.


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